Transgender and Schema Therapy

I came across an interesting post at – Third Way Trans – about Schema Therapy related to gender dysphoria.  I had not heard of Schema Therapy before.  I’ve studied a lot of psychology and sometimes I think all the terms and theories of therapy get excessive and unhelpful.  All the terms are simply ways of categorizing and analyzing human behavior, but we must remember that these are terms made up by psychological theorists, not pure realities.  When it seems like every psychologist comes up with his own terms, I get frustrated.  Anyway, I guess sometimes it helps to have terms to describe the reality of what we experience, so if using the term “schema” is helpful, so be it.

The author of the blog talks about a possible schema related to masculinity and femininity.  This makes a lot of sense to me and certainly resonates with my own experience and what I’ve also noticed from reading and talking to many crossdressers and those with transgender feelings / gender dysphoria.

He mentions three strategies for trying to deal with those feelings.

The first is overcompensation.  I myself, (and certainly other crossdressers), have felt very inadequate in my masculinity.  And to make matters worse, every time we crossdressed or imagined being a female, it only made us feel like even more like a fraud as a boy or man, and made us feel even more insecure about our masculinity.  I did overcompensate as a youth, but still not enough to avoid jeering by peers and being called “gay” quite often.  But I did what I could to seem tough, kept my emotions bottled up inside while at school, and engaged in certain activities I was very uncomfortable doing like certain team sports.   Thankfully today as a man, I no longer feel any desire or pressure to overcompensate.  I am just myself and do what I want to do and what I need to do.  I feel like a man, even though I know I’m different from other men.  I let God tell me who I am as a man of God, rather than trying to conform to the standards of the culture.  And because I am no longer crossdressing or fantasizing about being a woman, I no longer feel like a fraud as a man.

Second, he talks about avoidance.  Of course for many of us this comes out in crossdressing, or viewing crossdressers online, or reading crossdressing fiction, or simply fantasizing and masturbating.  Obviously, there had to be something going on (like erotic imprinting or some biological precursor or both for us to develop this sexual component).  As these behaviors are meant as escapism or pain avoidance from the schema, it certainly makes sense that we would go to crossdressing in times of stress.  What better way to escape reality and your feelings of dysphoria by pretending to be somebody else?  Thankfully, today I can report that I have dealt with these feelings in an appropriate healthy way.  Now if the pain ever resurfaces regarding my gender, it’s easy to go to God and find comfort in Him.  While it’s true that sometimes temptations still come in times of stress, I think it’s less about my gender feelings now, and more just tempted to have quick sexual pleasure in times of stress.  My gender schema has healed.  I am very much, and even nearly perfectly, content.  But I have to keep going through the long process (possibly never ending) of reconditioning my body to desire the right things sexually, and not the wrong things.

Third, he talks about giving in to the schema, which would be a man actually trying to live as a woman.  I know many of you have done this, whether in a limited way or even to the point of altering your body.  I’ve heard from many of you that it did not work and did not take away your dysphoria or pain.

The author mentions that there is hope in healing.  And I fully agree, though we may disagree somewhat on the method of that healing.  While I don’t discount the importance of counseling and other psychological methods of cognitive and behavioral therapy (in fact I would highly recommend such counseling), I think are healing is most of all to be found in God and the truth of his Word.  It is only God who can heal our gender pain and dysphoria.  It is God who tells us who we are, who he created us to be (see this post).  It is he who tells us what manhood and masculinity are all about, not the culture in its stifling expectations.  It is God who comforts us when we feel like we don’t fit in with others.

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6 comments on “Transgender and Schema Therapy

  1. Temptedsinner says:

    I guess I can somewhat relate to all three “schemas” . Although, even in the years when “I knew that I was a woman trapped in a mans body” People still saw the more of the man that I am supposed to be, versus the woman that I was trying to cultivate. At one point I considered “coming out” I didn’t care what people thought about me, I had to be me!
    I think what may have stopped me was the embarrassment it would have caused my kids and wife. But in reality I talk like a guy, and I don’t mean my voice. I think like a guy! I act like a guy, even when I was trying hard not to.
    Some day it would be interesting to go back and chronicle all of the different stages that I have experienced just in the realm of cross dressing and transgenderism.
    For many years I also struggled with the phrase “Let go and let God” It is hard to get there, especially when you don’t know how. Once it clicks, once it happens, it just changes everything!

    Come on guys, kick off your heels, let your guard down, pray a little and re-find yourself.

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  2. Destry says:

    I wonder is masturbation alone without porn a sin? I did it last night for physical release, and even though I asked God for forgiveness for it I still wonder is it a sin.

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  3. thorin25 says:

    Destry that is a good question, and a very difficult one to answer. I have tried to answer it here – https://healingcd.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/masturbation-good-or-bad/ However, I’m very open to learning more, know that I could be easily wrong, and am willing to change my view if people keep teaching me on that subject.

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  4. ikthys says:

    I think the core concept has a lot of merit. We all use schemas of various sorts for understanding ourselves and our worlds. I still often wonder whether my schema was the problem or whether I am just a transgressor who tries to cheat the system for an easy orgasm. Many times, even upon reflection of my early days, I don’t feel like I have dramatically followed any of the coping paths listed here. Perhaps the third- just giving in- was my way, but only in a bracketed method of accepting it for a moment of thrill, but then stepping back out of it once satisfied/relieved…

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  5. Daniel says:

    Excellent post. My schema came from the church, and I was unable to fulfill it. Have a job, a spouse, no matter how hard I tried, I could not even provide for myself. So then if I was not able to do that, I was not a man. That was my logic, and if I was not able to do those things, then I was not worth marrying a Christian woman. So rejection not just of myself, but unfortunately, no matter how nice I was, or supportive, or interactive, I could not attract a woman, combine that with some other issues and abuse, well…
    So what is a man? Because I was born in a male body that automatically makes me a man? I have had this and other questions go through my head, at least in society, I was able to have some freedom. I am thankful as I slowly read through these posts and read others comments. It has helped me to see that I can find others who have struggled like me. I could never open up like this or find common grounds in the CR group I was in.

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  6. thorin25 says:

    Thank you for the comment Daniel. There is hope. These are hard issues to work through, but with God’s help, guidance from his Word, we can grow in our understanding of what it means, and what it does not mean, to be a man. Keep reading my posts and commenting, praying for you

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